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Central Texas Schools Lead State in Absences With 2.4 Million

Updated: Friday, August 29 2014, 08:20 PM CDT

Class is in session.  But getting kids to school on time and keeping them in class doesn't seem to be a top priority in Central Texas.

"There are 2.4 million absences each year in Central Texas," said Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon with E3 Alliance.  "We're higher than Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso."

Illnesses or family emergencies are some of the top legitimate excuses.  But, E3 Alliance, a non-profit educational research group, finds more often than not the student's school schedule takes a back seat to the parents' priorities.  E3 Alliance says routine dental appointments topped the reasons parents let their children miss class.

"It is important for parents to schedule appointments for their students either early in the morning, after school or Saturdays," Khotan said.  "Many parents are not aware that if their students are not in school by 10 a.m. they are considered absent by their district."

She says extended vacations around Christmas and Spring Break also factor into the problem.

"Don't miss school if you don't have to," Khotan said.  "Some parents are not aware that extending their vacation time or taking their kids out of school to go on a ski trip may actually contribute to the number of absences in Central Texas."

A missed day of school here or there may not seem like much.  But in Central Texas it's adding up, hitting districts hard.

"Those 2.4 million days also translate into an economic loss to the district of over $91 million each year that we don't get from the state," said Bobby Jenkins who serves on the Texas Higher Education Board.

Local businessman Bobby Jenkins sits on a state education board that tracks the progress of Texas students.  He says missing class ultimately affects Austin's job market.

"As someone who employs over 600 people,  I need people who understand the value of the education, they know how to learn, they have the social skills and they understand how important it is to have that discipline that coming and being there every day, you learn that at a very early age when you're in school," Jenkins said. 

A lesson Jenkins hopes students learn along with reading, writing and arithmetic.

(Photo from Motown31 at Wikicommons / MGN Online.)

By Walt Maciborski

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Central Texas Schools Lead State in Absences With 2.4 Million

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